Kevin WhiteheadWhy Jazz?: A Concise Guide

Oxford University Press, 2011

by Doc Stull on May 21, 2012

Kevin Whitehead

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Kevin Whitehead’s highly readable, informative and entertaining Why Jazz? A Concise Guide (Oxford University Press, 2011) is bookshelf “must have” for anyone who loves jazz – and he does it in a question/answer call and response style that is the perfect format for today’s point and click text and twitter world. It’s a primer for those who want to know more about the fascinating personalities in jazz from Louis Armstrong to Mary Lou Williams to Anthony Braxton (and Miles, Mingus, Monk and Coltrane); it’s a history lesson from New Orleans Dixieland to otherworldly free-jazz.  Best of all, Kevin gives the reader a rich trove of musical examples and a wide-ranging discography certain to open new vistas for those who are just digging jazz for the first time as well as aficionados who have been listening for years. Almost a half century ago, historian Will Durant condensed his 11 volumes of a lifetime of research into a small, thin work acknowledging the folly of trying to encompass the complexity of the impossible task before him. Kevin Whitehead has worked a similar miracle in his slim volume Why Jazz? This is a gem of a book that’s got passion and insight and beckons those who dig jazz and don’t know why as well as those who think they “get it” and want to know more.

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